One week you’re feeding the hungry in your parish the next week you’re ratting them out
When it comes to casting a film, few examples are as acclaimed as the graft that Francis Ford Coppola put into his masterpiece 'The Godfather'.
Al Pacino played Michael Corleone, the man who would inherit "this thing of ours". He was one handsome devil, square-shouldered in his military uniform without looking like a college jock.
Naturally brooding with a face that arranged his features not to betray his true intentions; calculating, not gormless. Someone to aspire to.
And then you had Fredo, his older, hapless brother. By tradition, all of this should have been his and here he was, untrusted by The Don to take care of business.
Fredo was played by John Cazale, an incredible artist who appeared in five films in half a dozen dizzying years. All five made the shortlist for best picture at the Academy Awards.
A chain smoker, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1977 at a time he was romancing Meryl Streep. He still went on to film all his scenes in ‘The Deer Hunter’ but died before it was complete.
He was what later became known as a ‘character actor’. And he inhabited the character of Fredo like a second skin. Intensely dislikeable and feckless, he eventually ratted out his own brother for money.
Fredo’s physical appearance was on point – skinny and sneaky, oily with a receding hairline. Set against the glowing Pacino as Michael, the viewer finds it impossible to work up sympathy for Fredo even though he is eventually executed for his betrayal with his brother watching from a distance.
Nobody likes snitches, you see. Rats. Turncoats. Sneaks. Canaries. Weasels. None of those terms are complimentary. Nobody chooses to christen their son ‘Judas’.
And yet, in an effort to curb the nefarious activities of county teams training ahead of their magic date of September 14, the GAA have set up an ingenious little method of trying to trip up those managers out there trying to get a jump on everybody else.
On Monday night, they sent out an email to club secretaries, county PROs and chairpersons, reading as such: "If a club has a grievance in relation to the availability of their county players, or feel a county team are holding collective training sessions before September 14, they are encouraged to submit a formal complaint to Croke Park. Any such correspondence must come from the official secretary email address of the club."
They are asking for club secretaries to be like Fredo. A rat. A snake. To tell on their own players.
There is another way, of course. There’s bound to be some of the old vigilance committee men on the go. Or if they have gone on to meet their eternal reward, the snitching gene is bound to pass down through the generations. The urge to tell tales resides in many among us.
As far back as 1902 saw the first recorded notice of vigilance committees sanctioned to keep an eye on GAA members’ activities. ‘Foreign games’ would not be tolerated, especially the ‘Garrison games’ of soccer and rugby as ‘The Ban’ was introduced. It was lifted for 12 months the following year, but it then held firm from 1904 to 1971.
But hard cases make bad law. The Ban did not discriminate.
Douglas Hyde was the first President of Ireland and he was a patron of the GAA. Yet, as soon as he was snapped attending an international soccer match between Ireland and Poland in Dalymount Park in 1938, he was hit with a ban.
One of Hyde’s final engagements as President was to visit German ambassador Eduard Hempel in May 1945 to offer condolences on the death of Adolf Hitler. Maybe the GAA got that one right.
This came a year after they bared their teeth in south Derry. Lavey beat Newbridge to win their first championship title.
But an appeal was lodged. Some time before, a member of the Lavey club had been ambling along in a tractor outside Magherafelt when he stopped to watch a soccer match over the hedge. Someone spotted this, reported it and Lavey were stripped of their title.
We could bring in outside help.
Once the FBI get this Ghislaine Maxwell business out of the way, they could be deployed to hide in hedgerows up and down the island to try and catch a group of men with whistles, wet gear and skinny tracksuit bottoms putting around 30 lads through their paces.
More likely, the good ole boys of the vigilance committee will be back out in force, spying on those tractors stopped along country lanes. All in the spirit of volunteerism. One week you’re feeding the hungry of your parish in the middle of a pandemic, the next you’re ratting out your neighbour.
Makes me warm thinking about it.